Give your gut some attention, it will be worth it!
The microbiome – the universe within us
There are about 250 billion stars in our Milky Way, an unimaginably large amount – But believe me, this is still nothing compared to the universe within us. Indeed, we are hosts to 38 trillion (!) microorganisms. This is also called “The Microbiome”. If you look at it at the cellular level, these make up 50 percent of us. Taken together, the microorganisms weigh as much as 2-3 kilos!
Most of it lives in our gut and forms the gut microbiome. There, the microorganisms firstly help with digestion and secondly also regulate our metabolism. But there are also microbiomes in the mouth, in the vagina and on the skin. These help, for example, in the repair of tissue and in the immune function of the skin. The gastrointestinal system is connected to and affects everything in the body – from metabolic and gut immune function, to cardiac, skin and urogenital health.
Each microbiome is absolutely unique
The ratio of good vs. “bad” bacteria is about 5 to 1 in a healthy gut, but the ideal microbiome probably does not exist. Therefore, as diverse as we are, so are our microbiomes. And for good reason: because every microbiome is absolutely unique and is also constantly changing.
External factors such as your diet, exercise, medications, and even sleep can affect the composition of your microbiome on a daily basis. A large diversity of strains in the microbiome therefore plays a major role in your health.
So the question is: What puts the microbiome in us at risk, damages it, and tips the fragile balance of good and evil?
We have compiled the most important influencing factors for you here.
What puts the microbiome at risk?
– Antibiotics – because they kill not only bad but also useful bacteria
– The chlorine in our drinking water (yes, from tap AND bottle) – and also the one in the swimming pool
– Almost all meat and dairy products
– A diet high in meat and fat because it promotes the growth of harmful bacteria
– Constipation, as this allows harmful bacteria to remain in the intestine for too long and multiply there unrestrainedly
– Toxins like cigarettes and alcohol
– Junk food with lots of sugar, fat and preservatives
– Stress, because the autonomic nervous system also controls the function of the intestines and then leads to diarrhea or constipation
– Radiation and chemotherapy
Symptoms of a disturbed microbiome
– Nausea and vomiting
– Stomach ache
– Frequent diarrhea
– Cramps in the abdomen
– Deficiency symptoms, especially of vitamins
The naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that make up our microbiome are called probiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of probiotics is“Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in sufficient quantity, provide health benefits to the host.” (1)
So if you’re wondering now if certain foods are probiotic, according to this definition, it can only be answered in the negative. Just because a food contains living microorganisms, such as yogurt, kimchi or kombucha, does not mean it is probiotic. It is true that benign bacteria are taken up via this, but which strains and in what quantities at all? Will these also survive the acidic journey through the digestive system? And have these strains been studied to see what they actually do in the body?
For there to be any probiotic effect at all, the right strains must also be consumed in sufficient quantities. And they must first pass through the many stages of digestion (past stomach acid and bile) to make it into the colon. This is where probiotic supplements come into play.
In Germany, by the way, the term “probiotics” may not even be used for food or dietary supplements. This is because, from the legislator’s point of view, it constitutes an unauthorized health claim. Therefore, you will no longer find the terms “probiotic” and “probiotics” on foods and dietary supplements.
The advantages of probiotics
The advantages vary depending on the genus and strain. However, some benefits are more common than others in this regard and can be expected from a broad group of probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics inhibit the growth of harmful germs
In the intestine, vagina and all other places in our body, probiotics create an acidic environment. This is because alkali-loving, pathogenic bacteria like to spread there. An acidic environment is therefore important to keep germs from developing.
Probiotics strengthen the intestinal barrier
The benign bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that strengthen the intestinal mucosa and, in some cases, have an anti-inflammatory effect beyond the intestine. To this end, they work closely with the “gatekeepers” of the intestine to determine there what may and may not enter the body.
Probiotics support intestinal peristalsis
Certain probiotic bacteria produce neurotransmitters that stimulate intestinal muscle contractions.
Probiotics support digestion
When we eat, certain probiotics produce enzymes. These then ensure the breakdown of complex carbohydrates (e.g. dietary fiber) that we would otherwise not be able to digest at all.
Probiotics support the immune system
The benign bacteria reduce oxidative stress (imbalance between free radicals and detoxifying antioxidants) and control the production of regulatory T cells (the ones that help your body distinguish between good and evil).
Probiotics produce vitamins
Essential vitamins B and K are produced by probiotics.
Probiotics protect the urogenital tract
Probiotics make it difficult for E. coli and other invaders in the urogenital tract. In women, they balance the pH in the vagina and thus protect against undesirable yeast fungi such as Candida in the vaginal biome.
The official prebiotic definition describes a prebiotic as“a non-digestible food ingredient that has a beneficial effect on the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thereby improving host health.”
Prebiotics are plant fibers, such as inulin, that reach the colon undigested. There, they are fermented by probiotic bacteria and broken down into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, acetate and propionate. Prebiotics therefore virtually serve as food for the probiotics and thus ensure their growth.
The gut-brain axis
Scientists are constantly discovering new connections between our microbiome and our health. The gut-brain axis (GBA) describes a two-way communication between brain and gut functions.
On the one hand, an out-of-tune gut can send signals to the brain, but on the other hand, an out-of-tune brain can also send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal discomfort may be the cause or result of anxiety, stress, or depression. (2)
New findings around the gut-brain axis also suggest that our gut flora can even influence our mood, appetite, behavior and circadian rhythms. (3) Things we originally thought were only happening in the brain.
The gut-skin axis
The gastrointestinal system is at the center of your body. In fact, it is connected to everything and influences everything. Starting with metabolic and gut immune function and ending with skin health. Researchers have already demonstrated that bacteria influence skin diseases such as rosacea and acne through the so-called “gut-skin axis”.
How stress affects your gut
Stress, or the combination of stress with increased consumption of processed foods, also causes digestion to slow down as a result. This slowdown then allows harmful bacteria to multiply more. It also increases the permeability of the intestinal wall, allowing these harmful bacteria to pass through.
Loss of normal microbial biofilm leads to gut permeability, increase in endotoxins, inflammation and oxidative stress. This causes a so-called “systemic inflammation” throughout the body.
Systemic inflammation is low-threshold inflammation that cannot be localized and results in nonspecific symptoms. Some of them also show up on the skin. In sensitive individuals, this cascade then triggers skin complaints (allergies, excess sebum).
Probiotics for intestinal problems
One study found that subjects treated with the mixed probiotic strains Lactobacillus plantarum LP01 and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 or Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BS01 had a significant improvement in the number of weekly bowel movements. These include the main complaints related to voiding, especially the consistency of the stool and the ease of excretion. In addition, complaints such as abdominal bloating and also anal itching, burning or pain were also improved in the active groups receiving probiotics. (4)
Conclusion: Taking a mixture of Lactobacillus plantarum LP01 and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 or Bifidobacterium animalis lactis BS01 for a period of 30 days is indeed able to significantly alleviate voiding disorders and hard stools (found, for example, in Love Your Gut Daily Biotic Complex).
(1) Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G. et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 11, 506-514 (2014).
(2) Bowe, W.P., Logan, A.C. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? Gut Pathog 3, 1 (2011).
(3) Matenchuk, Brittany A et al. Sleep, circadian rhythm, and gut microbiota. Sleep medicine reviews vol. 53 (2020): 101340.
(4) Del Piano, Mario et al. “The use of probiotics in healthy volunteers with evacuation disorders and hard stools: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology vol. 44 Suppl 1 (2010): S30-4